A young architecture firm brings vibrancy to a Montreal neighbourhood in flux by setting up shop in an old dépanneur.
is known for subverting convention. The Montreal architecture firm’s street-level office, in a former general store (circa 1890), is typical of the cheek that has distinguished it as a bona fide up-and-comer.
“The advantage of working in a space like this is that we see passersby, the seasons and Duluth Avenue’s ever-changing streetscape,” says co-founder Sébastien Parent. “It’s stimulating for creativity on every level.”
Established in 2012, the nine-person practice has carved out a niche in residential architecture with a string of irreverent updates to century-old Plateau townhouses, deftly mixing contemporary and heritage elements. The facades of this former working-class neighbourhood, a checkerboard of brick and stone row houses, are often protected by municipal heritage hawks – but ‘round back with La SHED, all bets are off. This past March, the firm’s latchkey-kid approach earned it the Emerging Architectural Practice award from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.
A highly visible corner office is a prime example of the studio’s rebellious ways and love for the city. “For client visits, we wanted our office to be in keeping with the rest of the work we do,” says co-founder Renée Mailhot.
Inside, everything’s painted white except two bright orange columns that hint at the firm’s fondness for colour punches. The open concept space is L-shaped, with the shorter arm serving as a de facto reception area for walk-ins and hot desking. In the larger half, the team works together at a large custom desk made of Corian. Running parallel to it is a wall of shelves backed by thick panes of translucent glass. This matériauthèque, stacked with regularly specified material samples, conceals a boardroom behind.
La SHED seems heartfelt and far sighted about being anchor tenants amid Montreal’s next urban renewal. “It’s interesting for the city, too. There’s a redefinition of ground-floor retail spaces taking place along commercial streets,” says co-founder Yannick Laurin. “We hope that by being here, we will bring more people into the neighbourhood, so streets like this can get a shot at a second life.”